The 5 Essential Business Skills That Can Lead to Success

The business world is complex and diverse. Every industry has its nuances; what works in retail may not work in large scale, negotiation-based sectors like pharmaceutical sales other business-to-business categories. That said, there are a few universal skills that, when mastered, can translate to success in nearly any field. If you’re beginning your career, or looking to improve your standing, these are the areas you should focus on developing.

Understanding of Key Business Terms and Structures

It may seem obvious, but you need to understand how your industry works to advance in it. You need to be aware of the common business challenges you and your competition face. You need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of relevant terms about your company’s operations, as well as a thorough grasp of the structure of the business that keeps those operations running. Look beyond your role and the role of your department. Ask questions of other employees about what they do and how it contributes to the quality of your product or service. Do self-guided research online about how your company and field work. There’s no downside to seeking relevant knowledge, and the upside may be massive.

Willingness to Go the Extra Mile

You’d be hard pressed to find a business leader who doesn’t appreciate a “go-getter.” While success is never guaranteed (in work or in life), it is often true that you get back what you put in. Making sincere efforts, liking putting in extra hours or volunteering for special tasks will not go unnoticed by management. While it’s important to maintain a healthy work/life balance, finding and embracing opportunities to go the extra mile will show your superiors that you have initiative and ambition.

Readiness to Lead

Speaking of ambition, if your goal is to secure an executive or management position, decision makers need to trust in your ability to lead. Great leadership consists of a complicated formula of factors from willingness to accept responsibility to ability to inspire and persuade a team. Many people prefer not to have these duties on their shoulders, which is fine and understandable. Those who want to move into more prominent positions, however, must step up and show they are ready to lead. Obviously, volunteering to head up special projects or task forces is important, but equally impressive is to offer to help other staff members who need assistance. This is an essential management skill that is often overlooked by employees hoping to climb the corporate ladder. Giving a fellow team member a hand while demonstrating patience and positivity shows management that you are committed to getting results and can drive others to produce them.


We’ve talked about eagerness and leadership, but even more essential is an incredibly basic but misunderstood skill: listening. Everyone can listen, right? Sure, but listening effectively in business is an art that must be studied and strengthened. When it comes to colleagues and subordinates, you must convey a sense of empathy and understanding in conversation. Far too many people are simply waiting for their turn to talk. Break yourself of this habit; only by truly absorbing what is being told to you can you process and respond properly. If you have difficulty with this, focus on remembering that your coworkers and staff depend on your advice and direction. Not to be melodramatic, but your decisions can impact their success, prospects, and livelihood. If you look at every conversation, however mundane, through that lens you will automatically be more attentive and empathetic.

Staying Positive and Cool Under Pressure 

Pros stay cool. It’s as simple as that. Think about military generals or sports icons. They may be passionate, but they don’t let pressure get the best of them, allowing emotions to dictate their actions. Successful leaders in business always look for the “silver lining” and spin difficult situations into positive opportunities.

The business world can seem harsh and cut-throat. That doesn’t mean you have to be that way to succeed. Cultivate these skills and traits to get ahead and make a positive impact on the people you work for and with.

Related: 5 Ways To Eliminate Routine Tasks From Your Workday